Christianity 201

June 5, 2017

Election and Eternal Salvation (Part 2)

by Russell Young

Romans 8 brings clarity to the issue of election. In verses 29─30 Paul wrote: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Earlier teaching in Romans 8 addresses the means of meeting God’s righteous requirements through living according to the Spirit (v 4), of being led by the Spirit to be a son (v 14), of suffering for victory over temptations (v 17), and of attaining the redemption of the body for adoption (v 23). Following these presentations, Paul addresses the intervention of the Father and the Spirit (v 26─27) which helps in bringing understanding to God’s “foreknowledge.” Clearly, God’s knowledge of a person is required before their particular need (weakness) can be addressed for the fulfilment of his plan with the destiny of glory.

The psalmist sheds some light on our understanding of knowledge. The psalmist wrote: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Ps 34:18 NIV) And, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Ps 51:17 NIV) It could be that knowledge of the heart is the “foreknowledge” upon which his selection is made…a heart that lacks pride but is humble and receptive to his sovereignty-a teachable or trainable heart. Both the psalmist and Jeremiah reveal that God searches the hearts of all people. “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Jer 17:10 NIV) Psalm 139 elaborates on God’s knowledge of an individual. He uses that knowledge, foreknowledge, before he intervenes in a person’s life.

The Father searches hearts and it is he who gives the Spirit. (Jn 15:26; Gal 4:6; Lk 11:13) According to his mercy and grace the Father chooses or elects those whom he will bless with the Spirit so that his plan might be accomplished. Following this, he works with the Spirit in the lives of those whom he has elected. “In the same way (waiting patiently for the redemption of our bodies), the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts (the Father) knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Rom 8:26─27)

It is in this process that further knowledge is gained. Although those to whom he has given the Spirit were chosen for it, not all will respond obediently. Jesus said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk 6:46) Some will deny the Spirit, and others will quench or thwart the Spirit but those who are obedient, those who love him, who have been called according to hs purpose God knows and they are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son because he is faithful and is committed to working with them. Without obedience a person cannot fulfil the plan of God and it is through its practice that the Lord said a person would remain in his love (Jn 15:10) and would find eternal salvation. (Heb 5:9) Those who live obediently to the Spirit will be known by God and will have been predestined through his plan to be justified and glorified. These will be the elect or selected.

All, except those whose hearts have been “hardened” for the achievement of a specific purpose have the same opportunity to obtain eternal salvation. The heavens declare his glory so “men are without excuse.” (Rom 1:20) “Whoever is thirsty, let him come.” (Rev 22:17) “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” (Titus 2:11) “God wants all men to be saved.” (1 Tim 2:4) All have opportunity to gain knowledge of him and of him and his majesty but not all will humble themselves and their pride will be their undoing.

 

June 4, 2017

Election and Eternal Salvation (Part 1)

by Russell Young

Election refers to the selection by God of a people for a specific purpose. Quite often it is accepted as the designation of a person to enjoy God’s eternal kingdom. Election has taken place from the earliest of times with Noah and Abraham. Some accept that all people who will dwell eternally with God had been elected his people from before the creation of the world and this often accepted as an act of God’s “sovereign grace.”

Whenever it takes place election or selection of an individual is God’s act of determination. In speaking of Jacob and Esau Paul wrote: “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad– in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls-she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’” (Rom 9:11-12 NIV)

God’s practice of “election” has a purpose, as in “God’s purpose in election.” This might be easier to understand stated as, “God’s purpose through election.” That is, God elects for a reason or to accomplish his ends. He has a plan and it can only be accomplished through his handiwork and through the expression of his sovereignty. Lacking either a plan or his sovereign authority, only anarchy and chaos would result. Election must be recognized as a means by which God fulfills his plan.

To the Ephesians Paul wrote: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Eph 1:11 NIV) According to Paul, God has a plan and is working it out. Those who will have been elected will have satisfied his plan since his plan was destined to accomplish his goal.

Election has two distinct applications so that “his will” might be accomplished. These might be seen from macro and micro perspectives. His hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is an example of election’s macro application. Concerning Pharaoh, the LORD said, “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’” (Rom 9:17 NIV) God’s purpose was to make a declaration for the benefit of his name and to all the earth. The selection or election of Israel as his special people is another example of a macro application.

Through Jacob’s election the Lord made clear his right of sovereignty over individual lives and human traditions. The traditional approach would have been to have God’s blessing rest on Rebekah’s elder son however, the LORD clarified that God’s purpose in the election of Jacob was so that his choosing would not, and could not, be based of the “work” of humankind but by determination of the one who calls…the LORD himself. The principle being revealed is that God is in charge! Later in Romans Paul recorded: “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden,” (Rom 9:18) but this mercy and hardening of hearts is according to his purpose in or through election.

Ephesians 1:4-6 is often used as support for the thought that God elected his children before the beginning of time. Paul wrote: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (NIV) However these passages present several ideas and are really a presentation of God’s plan as is revealed in verse 11. “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will…” God’s plan was that those “in him” would be holy and blameless in his sight” and would “be adopted as sons.” His plan was devised before the creation of the world, specific individuals were not elected at that time. The revelation of the specifics of his plan comprises much of the New Testament. In this instance Paul was specifically addressing the “faithful,” those who were adhering to his plan.

…continued tomorrow…

October 23, 2016

Blaspheming the Spirit

by Russell Young

The Word of God offers a stark warning to believers.  “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mk 3:28─29 NIV) Luke wrote: “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” (12:10 NIV)

When the understanding of blasphemy is limited to voicing negative comments regarding the Holy Spirit it is easy for anyone to consider themselves free of guilt. God will not tolerate vilification of the Spirit whether through verbal assault or through failure to honor his right to rule in the confessor’s life.

Per Strong’s Greek Dictionary blasphemy means “vilification (especially against God): —blasphemy, evil speaking, railing.” In the above verses, the Lord taught that all who rail or speak evil against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. When the Lord uttered these words, he had been specifically addressing the speaking practices of people since he had just said, “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Lk 12:3 NIV)

The New Testament’s use of blasphemy was most commonly applied to Christ on occasions where he either made the claim that he was the Son of God or that he could forgive sins.  The Lord’s use rested in a person’s failure to honor the Holy Spirit, his Spirit (2 Cor 3:17, 18) by despising him verbally.

Blasphemy has applications other than vilification by word, however.  The Lord told Moses and the Israelites, “But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the Lord, and that person must be cut off from the people.  Because he has despised the Lord’s word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.” (Numbers 15:30─31 NIV) The charge of blasphemy rests not only on vilifying through word but also by sinning defiantly.

Ezekiel was commanded to tell the house of Israel, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In this also you blasphemed me by forsaking me.” (Eze 20:27 NIV) “Sinning defiantly” and “forsaking God” are also forms of blasphemy. The writer of Hebrews addressed this matter.  “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10:26─27 NIV) Vilifying, defying, deliberately sinning, and despising the word of God are forms of blasphemy and that includes not attending to the call of the Spirit.

Unless the Spirit’s ministry is not recognized and honored, he cannot accomplish his purpose in the lives of people. It is the Holy Spirit who brings about a person’s sanctification and salvation (2 Thess 2:13; Titus 3: 5─6) leading to that one’s resurrection. Those who defy his rule in their lives will be held accountable for their rebellion.  Those who have gained knowledge of the truth in a certain situation are required to act in compliance with their understanding. Teaching that allows freedom from obedience to the Spirit is deceptive and even blasphemous.  Paul wrote: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8 NIV)

Although It is easy to find comfort in the understanding that blasphemy is limited to vilifying words, such comfort is not so easy to come by when blasphemy is recognized as sinning “defiantly” or knowingly. Have you knowingly sinned?  It is not without reason that Paul cautioned the Philippians to “continue to work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Phil 2:12─13 NIV)

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a very serious matter and it is often masked by beliefs that promote inaccurate teachings about God’s mercy and grace, about his unconditional love, about the believer’s adoption as a son, and about the reality of his or her eternal security having been assured. Where these teachings prevail, not much thought has to be given to the need for obedience or to honoring the Spirit. Blaspheming the Spirit is done knowingly and intentionally, and comes from a defiant and rebellious heart but is not limited to evil words, it also includes denial of the Spirit’s right to the direct confessor’s life.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young’s book is in stores and available now in print and eBook.  The title is Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? It is available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

October 12, 2016

Standing on Certainty

II Timothy 1:12

…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

…I’m not ashamed. I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust. I’m convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day.

…I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.

People often say they need “a little more faith,” but perhaps what they are looking for is “a little less faith and a little more certainty.” Is that what they really want?

The argument is compelling: Faith wouldn’t be faith if we had 100% certainty. Probably nobody seemed to have more faith than the Apostle Paul, but it could be argued that he had less faith in God’s existence because he had the certainty of having met Jesus face to face on the Damascus Road.

Doubt has become very fashionable of late, even among Evangelicals. We have a spectrum of people who wear their misgivings on their sleeves at one end, and others who spectacularly crash and burn on the other. Some are actually clergy, and they use every opportunity to flaunt their doubts, begging the question of why they stay in vocational ministry if so little of Christianity’s core beliefs are true.

Paul’s situation isn’t really all that unique. We can have less faith and more certainty if we allow God to meet us on the Damascus Road of our lives. The road to Damascus is a sudden, crisis-like, intervention in our life’s script, but there is, in contrast, also the slow process of getting to know God over time and yet knowing him in the same certainty as the Apostle Paul did, but without the dramatic involvement of physical blindness.

The sometimes controversial musical, Godspell, introduced a generation to the following prayer:

O Dear Lord
Three things I pray.
To see thee more clearly.
Love thee more dearly.
Follow thee more nearly.
Day by Day.

This prayer has its origins in Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. Here it is in Ignatius’ words:

104. Third Prelude. This is to ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for an intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely. (Ignatius)

[source]

The verse from II Timothy is about both a believing faith and a trusting faith. At a blog called Canadian Writers who are Christian, we read these words from Alan Reynolds:

…[W]e don’t trust someone unless we know her (or him), have been together and worked together and talked together. Faith is relational, a personal thing. It doesn’t come wrapped in fancy paper and fine ribbons like a present on one’s birthday — and all we have to do is break the ribbon and tear off the paper! It’s not like buying a new car — shopping around until you decide what model you want, then going in and making a deal, paying the money down, and driving away.

This faith of which I speak is a quiet thing. For most of us, it has a quiet beginning. It grows through the years, often imperceptibly from day to day and week to week. We can’t create faith, or command it. It is the gift of God. But we can receive it, and nurture it. And if we don’t, it withers and dies.

Some of us enjoy gardening — digging in the earth and cultivating, planting and watering and fertilizing and weeding. We give our gardens every care.

Faith is rather like that. Nothing we can do will make a seed come to life and grow. Only God can do that. But if we don’t tend that seed which God’s Word has planted in our hearts, if we don’t care for it and nurture it, it’s not going to amount to much. If we let the weeds get ahead of us, or if we neglect to nourish and water regularly, then the plant which is our faith will wither and perhaps will die. And when we need it and turn to it, as we all do sooner or later, we find that there is nothing there…

Read more:

June 19, 2016

Being “In Christ”

•••by Russell Young

Being “in Christ” is the designation given to a position of comfort through confidence in a person’s eternal hope.  Being in Christ also means that all of the attributes of Christ are accessible to the believer; he is the believer’s means of being kept and of being delivered.

Being in Christ does not mean that the believer is in the body of Christ but that he or she has a connection through relationship with Christ from which they can take on the personality and heart of Christ through his enlightenment, leading and divine power.  The believer is so linked with him through the Spirit, that Christ is his or her life. After all, through baptism he or she has declared themselves to have died to all nourishment outside of him and of all interests outside of his.

Those privileged to be in Christ should not assume it to be their fixed place of residence, however.  Before his crucifixion, Christ said, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (Jn 15:1-2, NIV) Vines can become wild and fruitless and of little value.  Further to this teaching, Christ has revealed understanding about the nature of a person’s relationship with him.  “Remain in me and I will remain in you.” (Jn 15:4, NIV) “If a man remains in me and I in him he will produce much fruit.” (Jn 15:5) And, “If you obey my commands, you remain in my love, just as I have obeyed the Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (Jn 15:10, NIV) The Lord used the conditional word “if” in these statements implying that the permanence of remaining in him rested on the believer doing or obeying his commands.  In fact, he directly taught that a person’s position in his family was dependent upon the manner in which he or she dealt with sin, and according to their practice of obedience (Heb 5:9) “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son [one who obeys, Rom 8:14, 6:16], belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:34-35, NIV)

God is faithful to those who remain faithful to him.  It is written: “The Lord is with you when you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” (2 Chr 15:2, NIV) He will, however, forsake the unfaithful.

Abiding in ChristThose in him get all that is needed through him, and in turn produce the fruit for which the root grows and provides nourishment.  Christ who is the Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Gal 5:22) Those who do not produce these will be “cut off.”

It is just as important to consider who is not in Christ. The person who claimed through profession of faith that Jesus is his or her Lord and who is living or walking in spiritual darkness has no fellowship with God. “So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness.  But if we are living in the light [obeying his commandments or being led] as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:6, NIV) This is another conditional statement concerning fellowship and cleansing.

John summed up his portrayal of who is “in Christ” and who is not.  “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn 3:10, NIV) And, “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:5-6, NIV)

A person’s position in Christ depends upon his or her willingness to allow Christ to live through him or her by practicing obedience to the Spirit.  When someone looks at a person in Christ, they should see Christ.  The Lord did not sin while in the flesh and those in him will not sin.  When sin is practiced, that person is not in him on that occasion but has taken nourishment from Adam or Eve, his or her sinful nature.  When a person reverts to their old nature they once again become subject to destruction. “Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction. (Gal 6:5, NIV)

Whether or not a person remains “in Christ” depends upon his or her will.  It is a person’s doing or their walk that reveals his or her position and will determine their eternal outcome.   Christ told His disciples, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21, NIV) A person’s “doing” is important to his or her eternal state and to their remaining in Christ.  Many promises are made to those in Christ, including the promise of freedom from condemnation (Rom 8:1) and of resurrection. (1 Thess 4:16)

May 22, 2015

Mercy to Those Who Doubt

Late last night, I was re-reading a 2013 article at the blog Parchment and Pen by Michael Patton dealing with doubt. It drew me to verse 22 of Jude:

Jude 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

The Reformation Bible Commentary states:

The exact Greek text of these verses is disputed, and it is hard to tell whether two or three groups of sinners are in view. Whatever the textual solution, Jude clearly recognizes that different pastoral strategies are to be employed with different people. Some can profit from gentle counseling (Gal. 6:1). Others will require confrontation or action of some sort, to pull them “out of the fire.”  (emphasis added)

That sets the tone I believe for anything you read in other commentaries on this verse. The Asbury Bible Commentary states:

Despite his vigorous exposure of the opponents’ errors, in vv. 22-23 Jude calls the church to evangelize them. Jude holds out the evangelistic hope for renewal, even to selfish schismatics who upset congregational fellowship and mission. Jude’s prescription of edification for the saints and evangelism of the schismatics is an effective antidote for contemporary church fights as well.

which seems to reflect that “doubters” would refer to Jude’s opponents or those unevangelized.

But Matthew Henry sees this referring to “brethren” who have fallen into error.

He directs them how to behave towards erring brethren: And of some have compassion, etc., Jude 1:22, 23. Observe, (1.) We ought to do all we can to rescue others out of the snares of the devil, that they may be saved from (or recovered, when entangled therein, out of) dangerous errors, or pernicious practices. We are not only (under God) our own keepers, but every man ought to be, as much as in him lies, his brother’s keeper; none but a wicked Cain will contradict this, Gen. 4:9. We must watch over one another, must faithfully, yet prudently, reprove each other, and set a good example to all about us.

(2.) This must be done with compassion, making a difference. How is that? We must distinguish between the weak and the wilful. [1.] Of some we must have compassion, treat them with all tenderness, restore them in the spirit of meekness, not be needlessly harsh and severe in our censures of them and their actions, nor proud and haughty in our conduct towards them; not implacable, nor averse to reconciliation with them, or admitting them to the friendship they formerly had with us, when they give evident or even strongly hopeful tokens of a sincere repentance: if God has forgiven them, why should not we? We infinitely more need his forgiveness than they do, or can do, ours, though perhaps neither they nor we are justly or sufficiently sensible of this. [2.] Others save with fear, urging upon them the terrors of the Lord; “Endeavor to frighten them out of their sins; preach hell and damnation to them.” But what if prudence and caution in administering even the most just and severe reproofs be what are primarily and chiefly here intimated–(I do but offer it for consideration); as if he had said, “Fear lest you frustrate your own good intentions and honest designs by rash and imprudent management, that you do not harden, instead of reclaiming, even where greater degrees of severity are requisite than in the immediately foregoing instance.” We are often apt to over-do, when we are sure we mean honestly, and think we are right in the main; yet the very worst are not needlessly, nor rashly, nor to extremity, to be provoked, lest they be thereby further hardened through our default.—“Hating even the garment spotted with the flesh, that is, keeping yourselves at the utmost distance from what is or appears evil, and designing and endeavoring that others may do so too. Avoid all that leads to sin or that looks like sin,” 1 Thess. 5:22.

I suspect Matthew Henry has more there than was in view in the article that I read. The short Jude passage raises rich and complex issues. Michael Patton was dealing more with the issue of assurance of salvation which we looked at here recently and also here. Looking at people — especially in the Reformed tradition — who have seemingly crossed the line of faith but lack assurance that they are among the elect.

The question is Can one be absolutely sure that they are a believer and how important is this assurance in their walk with the Lord? Many Christians don’t believe an individual can be assured of their ultimate salvation. Many believe one can lose their salvation. Catholics believe that “mortal sins” (really nasty sins such as adultery,  rejection of the perpetual virginity of Mary, or missing Mass without a valid excuse) can cause a Cathlic to lose their salvation. Arminians and Wesleyans believe one can cease to believe, thereby forfeiting their seat in heaven. Therefore, from the perspective of those who don’t believe salvation can be lost, these belief systems cannot offer any assurance. The criticism would be that no one could ever be sure, until death, whether or not they are saved. After all, what if I decided to sleep in on Sunday and then immediately died of a heart attack without repenting? How do I know for sure if my faith is going to last until the end? For Catholics, the fact that one cannot be assured of their salvation is dogmatized.

…Ironically, for the Catholic, to believe that one can be assured of their salvation would be the means by which they lose their salvation!

He continues,

There are three primary reasons Christians doubt. The first has to do with objective intellectual issues. These doubt the Bible’s truthfulness, Christ’s resurrection, and even God’s existence (among other things).  Another group doubts God’s love and presence in their lives. The last group doubts their salvation and the reality of their faith. These are always wondering if they have true saving faith or a false faith. This last group lacks assurance.

It may surprise you to know that just about every contact I have had with people who are doubting their salvation are Calvinistic in their theology. In other words, they believe in unconditional election. These are the ones who believe in perseverance of the saints. These are the ones that believe that we cannot lose our salvation! Yet these are the ones who are doubting their faith the most.

Their issue has to do with their election. Are they truly among the elect? If they are, they believe their faith will persevere until the end. But if they are not, there is no hope. But how are they to know for sure whether they are elect? Maybe their faith is a stated faith? Maybe it is false. The gentleman I talked to today was so riddled with doubt, he was having thoughts of suicide. “How do I know my faith is an elect faith?” He wanted assurance so badly, but felt that his Calvinistic theology prevented him from ever having such assurance.

He adds,

When we present the Gospel to someone and they say they have trusted in Christ, we do them a disservice to force assurance upon them. After all, how do we know that their faith is real? We don’t. Instead of assurance, maybe we should give them some of the Hebrews warning passages. Maybe we should speak to them as Christ spoke to the seven churches in Revelation: “to him who overcomes . . .” Maybe we should encourage them to “test their faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). Maybe we should warn them that there is a possible disqualification. (1 Cor. 9:27). This may not fit into your thinking, but we all know there is a faith that does not save (James 2:19). Why not bring this up?

I encourage you to read the entire article.

April 22, 2015

We’re Children of… Who?

Midweek columnist, Pastor Clarke Dixon, returns after a two-week absence. Click the title below to read at his blog.

A Work in Progress. A Reflection on 1 John 3:1-10

If all the scripture we had to go on were verses 8 and 9 of 1st John, we would be incredibly stressed Christians:

8 Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. 1 John 3:8-9 NRSV

From this alone we would come to the conclusion that the congregation and pastor together are a collection of devil-children. We know that we do sin and can sin. So what are we to do when the clear word of scripture does not align with our experience? Do we head down the path of despair that we will never measure up?

We remember that the Word of God contains more than these two verses. We do not need to go very far to find some comfort, indeed before John speaks about our sin, he speaks about God’s love:

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are”  1 John 3:1 NRSV

John in speaking to those who have repented of sin and turned to God in Christ does not say “we might be His children . . . ,” or “we could be His children, if we are perfect everyday in every way,” he simply says “we are His children.” Before we look at our sin and conclude that we are devil children, we look at the cross and the empty tomb to see we are God’s children. Before we look at our ability to attain perfection in purity, we look at His ability to love the impure person.

Also, we notice that perfection in purity is the goal toward which we are to progress, and so imperfection is assumed in the present. If you were to ask me how my bathroom renovation is going and I were to say “it will look good someday,” you will immediately know that it does not look good just yet. We have this same thing happening in verses 2 and 3:

2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3 NRSV

“What we will be has not been revealed,” in other words let us not dive too deep into conjecture as to precisely what our resurrection bodies will look like. Paul uses the analogy of of a seed becoming a plant to describe what happens when this body becomes a resurrection body. We are not told too much about the plant! But what we do know, as John points out, is that we will be like Jesus. And what is Jesus like? Verse 3 answers that: “he is pure.” If we look forward to perfect purity when Jesus returns, we know we still have sin now. We are a work in progress.

However some will stop with “we are a work,” and will forget the progress part. They will point to the love God has for the sinner and conclude that it is okay to remain a sinner. That misses the point for several reasons as John makes clear:

First, only a fool will make no progress toward a worthy goal. It is a foolish handyman who does not desire progress toward the goal of fixing a leaky roof. It is foolish beyond measure to not progress toward purity. John assumes that we will: “we will be like him . . . all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” I can attest to the fact that progress is exciting in renovation projects. When it comes to holiness, progress toward the goal is even more exciting!

Second, to continue in the enjoyment of sin is to act contrary to God’s activity. It is the foolish employee of a roofing company who takes a shovel to potter around a garden instead of getting to the job of ripping off old shingles. As John points out:

“You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.” 1 John 3:5,6 NRSV

Third, to continue in the enjoyment of sin is to show a family resemblance to a father we should want nothing to do with, a father we should completely disown:

7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. 10 The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:7-10 NRSV

On the one hand, if we desire a family resemblance to the devil rather than to our Heavenly Father, then yes, we should suspect that our relationship with God is in question. John is dealing in his letter with heresy that was threatening to infect the church which included the notion that a life of sin does not matter. It does!

On the other hand, the presence of sin in our lives is not automatic proof that we are not God’s children. It is proof that we are a work in progress. Are you already perfect? Are you making progress?

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:8,9 NRSV

 

August 8, 2014

Knowing the Answers versus Believing the Answers

II Timothy 1:12b

For I know the one in whom I have placed my confidence, and I am perfectly certain that the work he has committed to me is safe in his hands until that day.  (Phillips)

I know Him and I have put my trust in Him. And I am fully certain that He has the ability to protect what I have placed in His care until that day.  (The Voice)

I know the One I have believed in. I am sure he is able to take care of what I have given him. I can trust him with it until the day he returns as judge. (NIrV)

For I know him in whom I have trusted and I am fully convinced that he is able to guard my deposit until that day. (Mounce)

I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.  (Message)

I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (KJV)


I Corinthians 2:2

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (ESV)

For I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified.  (AMP)


I’m currently reading The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity by Barnabas Piper. Although I’m not a PK myself, many of his words resonate; especially in terms of the expectations often placed on a kid to be something spiritually that he or she is not. It can be easy to pretend. It can be easy to act the part — the background meaning to the word hypocrite, and fool the people in your spiritual community, or even though the broader community, though the latter may in fact be more likely to see through the facade.

I think a portion of scripture that should horrify all of us, even those who “know that they know that they know”  is Matthew 7: 21-23:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

I mean, doesn’t that just make you go “Yikes!” And yet, The Twelve, after spending three years in Jesus had no assurance of themselves spiritually and so in Matthew 26: 21-22 we read the account:

And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” (NIV)

Barnabas Piper writes about hiding his true self under layers; he compares it to the layers of an onion:

The Pastor's Kid - Barnabas PiperI spent all those years knowing all the right answers about everything, convincing everyone I was all good.  But at no point did I know what I believed.  I knew answers, but not reality.  I knew cognitive truth, but not experiential truth.  I was an internal mess.  I knew right and wrong.  I knew Jesus and His saving work.  I knew my need for a savior and grace.  But I didn’t believe these things.  I didn’t know them like I know my wife or my children – real, experiential, proven.  And so, after twenty years as a Christian, sin took over my heart and then my life.  It nearly cost me my marriage.  It did cost me that job.  I was broken.  All because I knew answers about everything but didn’t truly know what I believed.  All because what I showed the world was ‘right’ but inside me was a whole lot of wrong.

It is only grace that has restored me.  It was the awful power of God’s grace that peeled back layer after layer of hypocrisy, my onion self, to expose my heart to what I knew answers about but truly needed to believe.  It wasn’t the first time I had fallen, and it wasn’t the first time God had exposed my sin and His grace, but the other times I had moved on, lesson unlearned.  So He peeled me to save me.

More than anything I want my breaking to be the freeing of others.

Lord Jesus; help me not just to be someone who knows all the answers about you, but help me to truly be someone who is placing my trust in you, truly believing you, for everything. Amen


 

Today’s bonus item (from Twitter)

F – forwarding
A – all
I – issues
T – to
H – Heaven

 

 

 

February 3, 2014

Salvation: Still Free (Last Time I Checked)

Although I don’t use eBooks, I’m always intrigued by the concept that publishers now routinely offer books completely free of charge. There are Christian bloggers who regularly advise their readers where to find the daily and weekly bargain downloads, but sometimes I’m reading an old blog post, so even though I don’t have an eReader, I’ll click through to learn more, only to find the offer is no longer in effect and there is now a price to be paid.

Fortunately, when it comes to salvation, there is currently no closing date on God’s offer. True, a day will come when that will change. Also true, you don’t know long you have to take advantage. But it’s a free offer.

Mercy there was great and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary

For some, this is simply too good to be true. “Surely there is a cost;” they say, and truthfully they are correct. While Salvation itself is a free gift, God offers so much for us for this life, and that is going to involve taking up your cross daily. It might mean sacrifice or it might mean being ostracized by your family, friends and co-workers.

But in our original coming to Jesus, we find the offer to “taste and see” is both easy and simple. The problem we have is putting this idea across to those outside the church, and I believe part of the challenge is that we are living in a culture that is not Biblically literate, and therefore are not, as music and literary people say, “familiar with the literature.”

The story that needs to be kept told for me is the story in Numbers:

Numbers 21:7-9

(NIV)

7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

This Old Testament story foreshadows, as do so many OT stories, what Christ is going to do. As God’s people sojourn, they are given pictures which are somewhat for our benefit. Sometimes we impute this into the text from a New Testament perspective, but sometimes Jesus spells out for us in words unmistakable:

John 3:14

(NIV)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up…

Again, some of you are thinking, “this sounds really familiar,” and that’s because we covered this here in August, just a few months ago. But I felt directed that we need to return to this Old Testament picture, and furthermore we need to teach people how to teach people this story. While a testimony of “what God has done for us,” and a rudimentary knowledge of basic salvation scriptures are both helpful, it’s needful to be able to construct the offer of “God’s gift” in terms unrelated to the deeper, doctrinal considerations of Romans or Hebrews which the novice believer can’t fully process.

That’s why, for the fourth time, I’ve returned to this theme today. It can be explored more in each of the blog posts listed below.

But what if salvation is being commodified too much in this approach. As with all things, we need to be careful; we need to strike a balance. Tomorrow, we’re going to explore this in a way we haven’t in any of the preceding articles. Stay tuned.

The Great Exchange from Adam4d

Go deeper, read more:

Graphic: Adam4D (click graphic to source)

July 4, 2013

Certainty

II Timothy 1:12

…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

…I’m not ashamed. I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust. I’m convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day.

…I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.

People often say they need “a little more faith,” but what if they needed was “a little less faith and a little more certainty.”

The argument is compelling: Faith wouldn’t be faith if we had 100% certainty. Probably nobody seemed to have more faith than the Apostle Paul, but it could be argued that he had less faith in God’s existence because he had the certainty of having met Jesus face to face on the Damascus Road.

Doubt has become very fashionable of late, even among Evangelicals. We have a spectrum of people who wear their misgivings on their sleeves at one end, and others who spectacularly crash and burn on the other. Some are actually clergy, and they use every opportunity to flaunt their doubts, begging the question of why they stay in vocational ministry if so little of Christianity’s core beliefs are true.

Paul’s situation isn’t really all that unique. We can have less faith and more certainty if we allow God to meet us on the Damascus Road of our lives. The road to Damascus is a sudden, crisis-like, intervention in our life’s script, but there is also the slow process of getting to know God over time and yet knowing him in the same certainty as the Apostle Paul did, but without the dramatic involvement of physical blindness.

The musical, Godspell, made the following prayer famous.

O Dear Lord
Three things I pray.
To see thee more clearly.
Love thee more dearly.
Follow thee more nearly.
Day by Day.

This prayer has its origins in Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. Here it is in Ignatius’ words:

  104. Third Prelude. This is to ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for an intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely. (Ignatius)

[source]

The verse from II Timothy is about both a believing faith and a trusting faith.  At a blog called Canadian Writers who are Christian, we read these words from Alan Reynolds:

…[W]e don’t trust someone unless we know her (or him), have been together and worked together and talked together.  Faith is relational, a personal thing.  It doesn’t come wrapped in fancy paper and fine ribbons like a present on one’s birthday — and all we have to do is break the ribbon and tear off the paper!  It’s not like buying a new car — shopping around until you decide what model you want, then going in and making a deal, paying the money down, and driving away.

This faith of which I speak is a quiet thing.  For most of us, it has a quiet beginning.  It grows through the years, often imperceptibly from day to day and week to week.  We can’t create faith, or command it.  It is the gift of God.  But we can receive it, and nurture it.  And if we don’t, it withers and dies.

Some of us enjoy gardening — digging in the earth and cultivating, planting and watering and fertilizing and weeding.  We give our gardens every care.

Faith is rather like that.  Nothing we can do will make a seed come to life and grow.  Only God can do that.  But if we don’t tend that seed which God’s Word has planted in our hearts, if we don’t care for it and nurture it, it’s not going to amount to much.  If we let the weeds get ahead of us, or if we neglect to nourish and water regularly, then the plant which is our faith will wither and perhaps will die.  And when we need it and turn to it, as we all do sooner or later, we find that there is nothing there…

 

Read more:

January 28, 2013

Three Assurance-Giving Metaphors

This is from a new book, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How To Know For Sure You Are Saved by J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; a book about assurance of salvation.  (Published by B&H Books.) Normally here at C201, all scripture references are in green — because the scriptures have life! — but because all the quotations today are the words of Jesus, I thought we’d revert to the familiar “red-letter” format.

Jesus knew how important it was for His disciples to be assured of His love. In the final conversation He had with them before He died, He used three metaphors that showed them how committed he was to them. They were about to go through hell on earth, and He wanted to give them something to hang onto that would sustain them in that hour of great tribulation.

His Beloved Children

In John 14:18, Jesus said,

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart - J. D. GreearA faithful father does not leave his kids wondering whether or not he loves them. When I go away on a trip, I don’t say to my kids, “Daddy will be back soon…or maybe he won’t. Maybe I’m not really your daddy at all. Maybe my real family lives somewhere else. You’ll just have to wait and see if I come back. Sit around and think about that while I’m gone and let that compel you to become better children.”

That would not produce love and loyalty in my children. It might produce a little fear-based obedience, but it’s only a matter of time until fear-based obedience turns into farther-loathing rebellion. If I don’t want my own children fearing they might be orphans, would God?

Do we really think we are better fathers to our children than God would be to His? Hardly. The love God has for us is the highest in the universe.  Jesus said,

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.” (John 15:9)

Jesus loves us like God the Father loved Him; and He wants us to have the same assurance with Him that He had with God…

His Betrothed

In that same conversation Jesus told His disciples,

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14: 1-3)

Some have noted that Jesus’ language in these verses is laden with Jewish wedding imagery. In Jesus’ day, a young suitor would travel to his beloved’s home; throw a party, and request her hand in marriage. Assuming she said yes, he would return to his father’s home where he would begin construction on a room attached to the family living space. When their “place” was completed, he would return for her. Before he left, he would promise that he was coming back.

He did not want her to worry. Worry might lead to doubt, and doubt would cause here to be open to the advances of other suitors. He wanted her assurance to be so strong that she would not be moved by the flirtations of another…

…Jesus gives us, His beloved, that same confidence. He spoke to us in wedding language so that we would have the confidence of the wedding bride. Only in that confidence are we able to resist the enticements of sin.

His Friends

Finally, in John 15:15 Jesus calls His disciples His “friends.”

“No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends.”

Do you want your best friends questioning your loyalty to them? One of the greatest aspects of friendship is the feeling of safety that comes with it. You can be yourself around them and say what’s on your  mind without worrying about them betraying your confidence or abandoning you. You can give them access to the most vulnerable parts of your life without  any fear that they will violate them. Until you get to that point, it’s not really a friendship, or at least a very enjoyable one. True friendship only grows in security and trust.

I’ve had a few “friends” who broke my trust. I was never sure if they were guarding my reputation or trashing it. We didn’t remain friends very long. The friends I have developed the deepest bonds with are those I know I could trust with my very life.

Jesus wants us no less sure of His friendship to us. he said,

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

His commitment to friendship is no less than ours; it is infinitely more! Perhaps you’ve had a friend betray you or discover about you that led to their rejection of you. Jesus never will. From the beginning, He saw it all and chose us anyway. (John 15:16) When we revealed our worst side to Jesus, He bore our shame and consequences in our place. Friendship doesn’t get any more secure than that.

Those three images show us for certain that God wants us to be sure. He couldn’t have chosen three more intimate and precious relationships! We are His children, His bride, and His friends.

~Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, pp 18-21

Read a review of the book here

November 6, 2012

Assured of Eternal Life

Today we look at what may at first seem rather elementary material about the basics of salvation, until we move on to testing ourselves on how this evidences itself in our lives. This from Pastor B. J. Rutledge at Grace Fellowship Church and appears on his blog as You Can Know You Have Eternal Life.


[Recently] at Grace we talked about an UNUSUAL PROMISE from God.  At the request of one of our web/tech guys, I’m putting some of the scripture, some added notes and the check list from 1st John in this blog.  Let me start with a couple of added notes…

1.  No one can earn their way into heaven.  We are saved by faith through grace which is the gift of God and is clearly taught throughout the NT.  Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear on this and Eph. 2:10 states that we do good works as a result of this.  Titus 3:5 is clear that none of us can be saved by any works we do; our salvation is based on His mercy as we trust Christ and are born again by the renewing and regenerating that only the Holy Spirit can do in us.

2.  James 2:14-26 says that if my faith is real then “works of that faith” or “good works” will follow.  They don’t save me, but they are evidence of the fact that I am saved.

3.  None of us will live up to the things that John wrote in 1st John as “tests” of salavation 100% of the time; that’s why we need God’s grace.  As I stated Sunday, and have stated many times, the issue of testing your faith is one of direction not perfection.  We all sin.  I still sin.  However, the bent of my heart is now in the direction of the things that John revealed in the book of 1st John.

4.  In 2 Cor. 13:5, Paul was writing to the people who gathered as a part of the church in Corinth and challenged them to TEST themselves and make sure there was actual evidence that their lives had been changed by Jesus Christ.

5.  Paul was clear when sharing his testimony with King Agrippa that people must repent of their sins and turn to God to be saved, and then they should show / prove / give evidence of this change by their lifestyle or the things they do.

6.  John was clear that there are some very clear evidences that will be seen in a person who has “moved from death to life” or who is ”a child of God”.  He lists these things that help people test themselves as to their faith in 1st John.

Here’s some of the information from the message this past Sunday with a few added notes.

THE UNUSUAL PROMISE: You can KNOW you have eternal life.

My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion.  1 John 5:13 Msg

Paul – who wrote much of the New Testament says – if you’re not sure – you should do something about it.   Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.      2 Cor. 13:5 (Msg)

TEST YOURSELF – IS THIS EVIDENCE  IN YOUR LIFE?

1st   OBEY THE WORD OF GOD   

We can be sure that we know God if we obey his commands. Anyone who says, “I know God,” but does not obey God’s commands is a liar…”1 John 2:3-4a NCV

You may not & probably won’t understand everything in the Bible, but do you have a desire to do what God says and are you striving to obey what you already know from God’s Word?  None of us will be perfect, but if you have no desire for the Word of God or have no desire to obey the Word of God then you need to evaluate your life and see if your faith is real.

2nd   LIVE A CHRIST-LIKE LIFE  

Here is how we know we belong to him.  Those who claim to belong to him must live just as Jesus did.      1 John 2:5b-6  (NIrV)

Jesus lived a perfect life & none of us can live up to that because we’ve all sinned & messed up.     The issue isn’t perfection – the issue is direction.   Is the direction you choose – one that’s moving you closer to becoming like Jesus?  All of us mess up.  In fact, a verse from the book of wisdom that has really helped me and I’ve shared with others for years is Prov. 24:16 which states:  “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again…”   I’m so grateful for the truth of 1 John 1:9 which reminds me when I sin and blow it, I can confess it and God forgives me.

So – Do your attitudes & actions give evidence of someone who is pursuing a Christ-like lifestyle?

3rd  STAY TRUE TO THE FAITH 

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.  1 John 2:19 (NIV)

Believers will look for ways to experience community & do life with other believers.

4th  CHANGED NATURE 

“Those who are born again because of what God has done will not keep on sinning. God’s very nature remains in them…”     1 John 3:9a (NIrV)

Pigs like to wallow in filth because that’s their nature.  If you’re a believer, you’ve been given a new nature and while you’ll still sin – it’s not the habit of your life.  You don’t want to live in willful habitual sin.

5th  LOVE OTHER CHRISTIANS   

10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the Devil. Anyone who does not obey God’s commands and does not love other Christians does not belong to God.  14 If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life…” 1 John 3:10, 14a (NLT)

Love…doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do.  1 Cor. 13:4 CEV

6th  EVIDENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT  

When a person puts their faith & trust in Christ – the Holy Spirit comes to live in them.

How do we know that God lives in us?  We know it because of the Holy Spirit he gave us.  1 John 3:24b (NIrV)

We know an apple tree is an apple tree because of the fruit it produces.  If you’re really a Christian, there will be external evidence: fruit the Holy Spirit produces in you.  I’m not talking about Spirit Gifts here, but fruit.  Someone wrote me a note from Sunday and said “even an apple tree does not bare fruit at all times”.  They were absolutely correct, so let me try to expand the analogy.   Spiritual growth is a journey and we will have growth spurts and times when it seems like not much is happening; but it’s the Holy Spirit that produces fruit in us as we submit to Him.   As Jesus said when He was speaking about a person’s character: “the tree is known by its fruit” (Mt. 12:33).  The bottom line is that a person who has a genuine faith will at some point produce fruit; “the fruit of the Spirit” will be produced in their life at different times as they submit to God.

Gal 5:22-23a NASB  says:  “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

7th  HAVE THE SON OF GOD  

This is what God told us: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.   1 John 5:11-12 (NCV) 

Eternal life is found in Jesus Christ alone.  NOTE:  The thief on the cross never had a chance to do any of the things that John said were tests of salvation other than “have the Son of God.”  That thief put his faith & trust in Christ just prior to his death, and Jesus told him that he would be with Christ in paradise.  A simple accrostic I’ve used for years related to FAITH is:  Forsaking All I Trust Him.  That means I must put my faith in Christ and Him alone for salvation.

Here are a couple of other passages used in the message:

 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.  James 2:19 NLT

Yet some people accepted him and put their faith in him. So he gave them the right to be the children of God.  John 1:12 CEV

People have to die once. After that, God will judge them.  Heb 9:27 (NIrV) 

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.     Heb. 4:13  (NIV)


For a previous article by B. J. Rutledge at C201, click here.

October 25, 2011

Refuting The Accuser

I recall during my twelve year-old salvation crisis (brought on by my developed fear of the rapture) being told the illustration of a young girl who was being hounded by the Devil every day. The evil accuser challenged her salvation, lying to her about her conversion and shaking her assurance. An angel of the Lord came to her and took her to a tree in which she had carved the date of her decision, three years earlier. The angel said, “The next time the devil comes to accuse, you show him what is carved in this tree.”

This is a neat little story, and at the time, as dubious as my conversion at six years of age seemed to me, it prompted me to say the sinner’s prayer again and mark the new date. But looking back now I find it theologically tenuous and practically useless for the cause of assurance. My decisions are a shallow hope indeed. These days when the devil comes to accuse, I show him what is carved on my Savior’s hand. I rebuke him not with some sentimental tree memorializing my own spiritual movements but the tree upon which the Son of God was sacrificed for me.

–Jared C. Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness (Crossway, 2011),  p. 30

October 3, 2011

Well… I Hope I’m Saved…

For the past several days,  Ferrum, VA pastor Terry Covey at the blog Seeds of Faith, has been dealing with the issue of “assurance of salvation.”  It was once more frequent that people would respond to altar calls because they needed assurance, perhaps it’s time for churches to return to this subject.


It is sad that some who profess to be a Christian are uncertain of their salvation. ‘I hope I am saved’, they say. They believe that no one can know for sure until they die. What a great risk they are taking. After death it will be too late. Our eternal destiny will already be settled and there will be no turning back. We need to know for certain that what we believe is biblical and that it will take us to heaven.

With that in mind, consider these words from the Apostle John –

1 John 5:13 KJV These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

John says that the purpose of his writings is to give us rock-solid security of our salvation. These things have I written that you may know with confidence that you have eternal life. What can we know and why can we have confidence? Over the next few days we will consider some of these important truths.

1. What We Can Know With Certainty

A.  We can know with certainty concerning the character of God

Earlier in this same letter John wrote –

1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

By stating that God is light, John is saying that God is perfectly holy. Light is a symbol for purity and darkness is a symbol for sin. Other portions of scripture support this truth about God’s character:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Is. 6:3)

“Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy.” (Ps. 99:9)

“A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deut. 32:4)

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. (Ps. 18:30)

Can God’s character change? Can He sometimes sin or tolerate evil?

Malachi 3:6 KJV For I am the LORD, I change not…

When Moses ask God His name, the LORD replied – “I AM THAT I AM.” (Ex 3:14) Some interpret this name to mean –

“I will be in the future who I am in the present
and who I have always been in the past.”

Because God’s character never changes, we can know with certainty that whatever He promises He will perform. Consider this great promise of God regarding the security of our salvation.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

B.  We can know with certainty the condition of man

What do we know about the condition of man? Consider these portions of scripture:

Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way , they are together become unprofitable ; there is none that does good, no, not one.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

What is the condition of man? How does the Bible describe his character? Is anyone righteous? Is there anyone who can go to heaven because they are a good person? How many among us have sinned?

But the Lord is not condemning everyone. Surely there are some good people. Consider what Isaiah the prophet wrote about the religious people of Israel-

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…

When comparing ourselves with each other we think that we are pretty good; yet when comparing ourselves to God, even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.

The Apostle Paul is a perfect example of this. Before Paul was saved he was a very religious man. He was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. Yet note Paul’s words concerning his true spiritual condition.

Philippians 3:4 I once had confidence in the flesh too. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. 7 But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ-the righteousness from God based on faith. (CSB)

As far as any other man could tell, Paul was doing everything anyone needed to get to heaven. Paul the Pharisee was blameless. He dotted all of his ‘i’s’ and crossed every ‘t’. However, how did view himself in light of the character of God? Paul considered his righteous deeds to be like filth. The actual word used here mean – ‘manure.’

Dear friend, this I can tell you with certainty – you are not good enough to go to heaven. Regardless of how religious you may try to be, you will never match the character of God. In order for anyone to go to heaven, we must come to the same conclusion as Paul –

Philippians 3:8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ-the righteousness from God based on faith. (CSB)

“All of my religious deeds are nothing in comparison to God. I must have the righteousness of Christ!”

The reason some question about the certainty of salvation is because they are depending upon their own sufficiency to merit heaven. “What if I do this or what if I don’t do that?” Yet the certainty that scripture emphasizes is not based upon man, but upon Christ.

C.  We can know with certainty the condemnation awaiting sinful man

Some people think that they will have to wait until they stand before God in order to know whether or not they will be permitted into heaven. Yet the Bible tells us with certainty that mankind is sinful and the destiny awaiting him is eternal condemnation.

One night a very religious man came to talk with Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and he wanted to talk about miracles. But notice what Christ said.

John 3:36 He that believes on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him. (KJV)

Some people believe that God has a giant balance or scale in heaven and that in the end God will weigh the good against the bad in order to determine whether or not someone is worthy of heaven. But that is not what the Bible teaches. According to scripture, what determines our eternal destiny is our personal relationship with God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The truth is reinforced in this same passage.

John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

He that puts his faith in Christ is not condemned. But he who does not put his faith in Christ, is condemned already. He is condemned because God is holy and he is sinful.

Dear friend, you will never earn your way to heaven. You will never be good enough. Consider once again these words from Jesus.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? For more information, go to: HOW TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN

D.  We can know with certainty God’s plan of salvation

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Note that the certainty of salvation is based upon believing on the name of the Son of God. What does it mean to believe on Jesus’ name?

It is more than believing that there was someone called Jesus. Note these words found in the Bible.

James 2:19 You believes that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

The demons believe that there is one God. The demons also believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Matthew 8:29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?

Mark 1:24 Saying , Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

The demons believe ‘in’ Jesus, but they do not believe ‘on’ Jesus. They believe that Jesus is the Son of God and they believe that they are sinful and worthy of judgment. Yet they do not believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

John says that we must believe ‘on the name’ of the Son of God. Names carried great importance in scripture. Names often identified someone’s character. Names also established authority. To act ‘in the name’ of someone meant to act ‘in their authority.’ To believe in the name of Jesus means to believe that He has the authority to forgive sins.

Scripture teaches us that God’s plan of salvation requires us to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Regarding such faith, Jesus said –

John 3:18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


That represents four solid days at Seeds of Faith, and at the end of part four, having looked at the “what”, we look at the “why.”


2. Why We Can Have Confidence

The questions some might ask at this point are – “Why can we know these things with certainty? What gives us such confidence? Aren’t we being a bit arrogant to think that we can know that we are saved?” These are very important questions and therefore we need to know with certainty that we have the right answer. We can know these these things with certainty because every principle I have shared with you comes straight from the pages of scripture.

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Therefore to say that we cannot know with certainty whether or not we are saved is to question the authority of Scripture.

~Terry Covey, Seeds of Faith